15 May 2007

Step One: Perseverance

Dictionary.com defines perseverance as steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. Good Old Mr. Webster said perseverance was persistence in any thing undertaken; continued pursuit or prosecution of any business or enterprise begun; applied alike to good or evil.

Now, how in the world does perseverance fit with what I brought up yesterday? What light might it shed on unprepared young women facing housekeeping and motherhood? I propose that it has everything to do with it, because if one is not trained to do these things, and if one has never done them before, these tasks are very hard. They may seem insurmountable.

The transition to stay-at-home motherhood was a difficult one for me. I had experienced success and approval in my job. I met new people almost daily. The tasks that I undertook brought me satisfaction. College had trained me for one thing: career.

So there I was at home. I felt like the only stay-at-home mom in all of Los Angeles. At least the only one under thirty. People in L.A. don't have children until they are almost forty. My friends all had jobs during the day. My husband {obviously} worked during the day. I was lonely.

But it went beyond the loneliness. I felt unequal to the task. I never really liked children. I didn't babysit. The first diaper I ever remember changing ever was E.'s. What was I supposed to do with this little child? And wasn't it scary the way he looked at me, like I was his whole world? I felt the pressure of that.

And then there was the money aspect. We were young. We were just starting out. I had felt like I was helping when I had a job with a paycheck. I didn't feel like I was helping anymore.

And don't forget the nursing difficulties. A lot of new moms have nursing difficulties. This can compound the sense of failure.

I think that, in this world where women are completely unprepared for motherhood, my case of Early-Motherhood Anxiety was actually pretty mild. My mom did prepare me for many household tasks. I simply spent most of college enjoying myself instead of practicing what she had taught me. I do not blame her that a lot of it felt like square one. Any muscle will atrophy if it isn't used.

However, it wasn't until a conversation I recently had that I realized these senses of insecurity and failure are actually a reason some women go back to work. I'm not about to say all, because I know there are many reasons women take the career route. But I can't say I never thought about leaving, going back to a job I felt good at, a place where I could experience success. And now I have met women who went back to work because staying at home was hard, difficult, filled with negative emotions, lonely, etc.

This is not meant to criticize. Motherhood can be lonely. It is hard. Going from one income to two can be nearly impossible. We, if you recall, sold our house to make it possible long term. This job can be summed up in the word sacrifice.

Don't worry. I'm not trying to talk anyone out of motherhood. And I think I've been sufficiently pro-children on this blog in the past. I am just trying to be realistic about what a lot of women are feeling/have felt.

Through some of these recent conversations of mine, I have learned that quitting is becoming overwhelmingly acceptable. This is most evident in nursing. Most women give up nursing because it is hard. Period. If you recall, my body hardly makes milk at all. Let me tell you, unless the baby has a physical defect {like cleft palate}, where there is a will, there is a way.

When I was a child, I wasn't allowed to quit. Well, I was allowed to "quit" piano lessons, but that was only after taking them for thirteen years. I probably could have "quit" softball, but only after I finished out the season, and not a day before. But literally quitting? Walking off that softball field before the season was over? No way.

Children were once required by parents to finish what they started because the parents believed this would cultivate perseverance and determination in a child.

Have we forgotten what it means to persevere? What it looks like to have determination?

Our culture lives for the easy way out. Is it hard to learn to parallel park? Buy a Lexus LS 460, and it'll do it for you. Is it hard to read a map? Buy a GPS navigation system, and a little tiny computer will bark directions at you. This has been going on for years. Is it hard to wash dishes? Buy a dishwasher. Is it hard to do math? Buy a calculator.

Avoid hard work. Avoid learning. Avoid doing anything I am not naturally good at. This is the voice of the culture.

So, my first piece of advice for a brand new mommy? Persevere. Be determined. Don't quit. It is hard. You will be tired. But your own comfort and convenience is not the point. It was never the point. Remember giving birth? Um. Not. Comfortable. Not. Convenient.

Sometimes, hard times simply must be gotten through. There is no truly quick fix. Going back to work does not change the fact that a woman is still fully unqualified for and unskilled at homemaking and mothering. It just helps her avoid the fact.

Instructions for Mothering?

Step One: Persevere.

3 comments:

  1. I agree with what you are saying.... I think you and I have had that conversation about quitting recently. And there have been a few days lately where I have thought it would be much easier if I went back to work. Then I look at my sweet girl and can't imagine letting someone else have the joy of caring for her every day.

    That said, I do want that Lexus. May I never have to attempt parallel park again!

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  2. Rebecca,

    Just so you know, it wasn't a conversation with you that I was writing of. I make it a point to only talk about people behind their backs. Just kidding.

    However, I do remember someone recently telling me how glad they were they didn't quit when nursing was at its worst. :)

    And I KNEW you would want that Lexus. Ha.

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  3. You guys crack me up. I would settle for the Dyson and a Cuisinart.

    I am definitely looking forward to all this series has to offer.

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